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Ormet in 'advanced discussions' to sell alumina refinery

Source : Platts     Date: 29 October 2013

Bankrupt US aluminum producer Ormet is in "advanced discussions" about selling its 540,000 mt/year alumina refinery in Burnside, Louisiana, which is currently idled, and a deal is expected soon, CEO Michael Tanchuk told Platts Thursday.

Citing a confidentiality agreement, Tanchuk said in an interview he could not identify the refinery's prospective purchaser yet. Asked to comment on talk the would-be buyer is a chemical company, he said: "It's a possibility."

A final sale decision should come "fairly soon," he said, probably in a matter of days or a week or two.

Tanchuk confirmed the refinery is expected to resume producing alumina once the sale closes. "If we can complete the sale, it's a good step for the community, the plant and the people" in the Burnside area, he said.

Ormet no longer needs the refinery after shutting the final two potlines at its 260,000 mt/year smelter in Hannibal, Ohio, earlier in October.

The closure of the smelter followed the Ohio Public Utilities Commission's October 2 approval of only a portion of the electricity rate relief Ormet said was necessary to keep Hannibal open.

Tanchuk said, however, a sale of the refinery does not mean the smelter will never reopen.

"Believe me, look at the history of smelters," he said. "There have been smelters closed around the country" that reopened with a new source of alumina. "No doors have been closed. This is simply a transaction related to Burnside."

The refinery, which earlier this year had been operating at about one-third capacity, has totally ceased alumina production, he said, adding, "the plant is in idle mode at this time."

But the company interested in buying the refinery has "a good business plan" and could easily and quickly resume operations, he said.

The refinery has about 250 employees.

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